Councillors examine how well Covid-19 was managed by Hertfordshire's care providers

'One of the most challenging and traumatic experiences'

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 3:17 pm

“A huge learning curve for people” and “one of the most challenging and traumatic experiences” were descriptions used by senior county council officers in their dealings with the Covid-19 pandemic in the care sector.

The descriptions were provided to councillors during a detailed examination of how Hertfordshire’s care providers have coped during the pandemic.

Councillors sitting on the Care Delivery Topic Group examined how well Covid-19 was managed by care providers in people’s own homes and all care settings.

Coronavirus stock image

Tim Parlow, head of Integrated Community Support at the county council, said that advice and guidance relating to personal protective equipment was “a huge learning curve for people.”

While Tom Hennessey, assistant director for Integrated Care, said: “This has been one of the most challenging and traumatic experiences that we’ve had to cope with in that the carer’s role and the contribution, not only to see their loved ones, but the contribution that they make to care homes in order to help support residents, shouldn’t be under estimated.”

During the day-long meeting on March 2, the group was tasked with seeking information on the following four questions:

(1) The management of discharge from an acute setting to an individual’s home or care setting

(2)The effectiveness of the testing regime of staff working in individual homes or care settings

(3)The availability, use and distribution of personal protective equipment and training

(4)The impact of any financial support provided by the government or the county council.

Chris Badger, director of adult care services, explained to the group about when they first received notice of Covid-19.

He said: “In January last year, over a year ago, was when we first got indication that Covid-19 was likely to come our way in some form.

"At that point it looked inevitable that we would get some level of outbreak, not yet clear how bad that would be, but we were planning on it being significantly disruptive.

“From about January and February onwards the planning really accelerated in terms of what we would need to do to respond to such a pandemic within Hertfordshire.

“A lot of that planning had been laid out already in national guidance from our planning for the flu.

“So flu pandemic planning which had always been a significant risk register and I think through today we’ll find out which bits of that preparation around flu, both nationally and locally were relevant to what we’ve then had to do and which bits really flu planning was’t really fit for purpose in terms of what we were doing.”

“The planning started before the first case was arriving in Hertfordshire which I think was the last week in February or first week in March.”

Mr Badger said the first wave peaked on about April 28. In the early Autumn the rate started to pick up again. A second wave started in late December. He said it was their belief that it was the impact of the much more virilant Kent variant.

He said that 800 staff, seven per cent of the workforce working in care homes, tested positive in January 2021.

Partly that related to more testing for care home staff and then there was a drop off as lockdown begins to take effect and vaccination levels increase.

“We then get to a second wave and there’s still significant outbreaks in care homes. So it begins to potentially to change our understanding of how Covid was going to be likely entering in care homes.

“Because we know a number of the routes perceived to have been the main cause of outbreaks in the first wave, have actually changed whether it be, for example, discharges from hospital without testing changed, the level of PPE changed and it begins to change our thinking.”